For the uninitiated, a soup dumpling isn't a dumpling that goes in soup, it's a dumpling with soup inside. They are made by placing seasoned minced meat and a small frozen cube of soup inside a dumpling wrapper and then steaming. When done correctly, the flavors of the soup and the meat explode inside your mouth and make for a perfect start to most any Chinese meal.
And Grand Sichuan on W. 24th Street and 9th Avenue most definitely does them correctly. Their crab meat and pork soup dumplings are spectacular, a fact I was reminded of the other night.
It's always refreshing to find something whose memory always pales in comparison to the actual experience. Chikalicious is always like that, as is Grand Sichuan. They are hands down one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city, particularly for the price. Two people can eat heartily for around $30, tax and tip included. Granted, it's no $5 trip to NY Noodletown on the Bowery in Chinatown in terms of economy, but trust me, you're getting your money's worth. The subtlety and complexity of flavors at Grand Sichuan are absolutely astounding. I haven't the faintest idea what "authentic Chinese food" tastes like, but I hope it tastes like the food here.
In addition to the soup dumplings, they have a myriad of interesting dishes that don't often appear on other Chinese menus in town. I heartily recommend the Eggplant in Garlic Chili Sauce (with or without pork). They also do freshly killed chicken, which I have yet to try - I have this little fantasy that eventually I will see one of these birds fleeing from the kitchen and chased around the restaurant by the waitstaff. At which point I will shout, "And how is the duck?" or something similarly stupid and amusing only to myself.